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2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Poland

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Poland, 8 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ea661eac.html [accessed 23 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 38,100,000
Capital: Warsaw
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Hostility towards union activity remains commonplace. As illustrated by many cases, undue pressure is often exerted by employers on trade unions and their members. Restrictions on the right to strike are excessive.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN LAW

Trade union rights are guaranteed in the law but are limited for a number of categories of employees in the public services. While all workers have the right to form and join the trade union of their choice, a single trade union system applies to policemen, border guards and guards in penitentiary institutions and the employees of the Highest Supervision Chamber. Protection against anti-union dismissals is limited for small unions, as the number of union officials awarded protection is dependent on the size of the union.

While the right to collective bargaining is secured, a number of workers in the civil service including key civil servants, appointed or elected employees of state and municipal bodies, court judges and prosecutors, do not enjoy that right. Furthermore, the right to strike is seen as an element of collective disputes, can in general only be called if the parties do not reach an agreement through negotiations, and must be preceded by conciliation or mediation. The list of "essential services" exceeds the ILO definition, and includes workers in state administration and in local government. These workers can only use alternative forms of protest.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN PRACTICE AND VIOLATIONS IN 2010

Background: Politics in Poland were overshadowed by the death of President Lech Kaczynski and a large swathe of the country's elite in a plane crash in April. Despite this shock and the ongoing effects of the global financial crisis, Poland recorded one of the best rates of economic growth in the EU. However, the unemployment rate remained above the EU average.

Reinstatement difficult after anti-union dismissals: Forming a trade union, asking for collective bargaining or fighting for workers' rights is frequently followed by a summary dismissal of the union's leaders. The victims can ask for reinstatement, but court proceedings can take up to two years. Moreover, the courts are increasingly awarding just three months' salary as compensation in lieu of reinstatement, regardless of how long the activist has been out of work. Employers also claim that workers cannot be reinstated as the victim and the management would not be able to co-operate, and more and more judges are convinced that employers should not be forced to take back unfairly dismissed unionists as this could create a "conflict".

Dismissal of union leader: The employment contract of Miroslaw Kitowski, head of the NSZZ Solidarnosc trade union branch at the company PPG Polifarb Cieszyn S.A., was terminated by the employer under the pretext of a gross violation of his duties. This took place without the legally required consent of the company trade union organisation. The move followed an industrial dispute relating to wages and a ballot in November in which 346 of 453 participating workers voted for strike action.

Workers dismissed for establishing union: The contracts of nine workers at the company Gerda 2 sp. z. o. o.in Starachowice were terminated on the day following submission of an official notice informing the company president of the establishment of a trade union organisation in the company, together with a list of the members of the establishing committee. The people on the list were those whose contracts were ended.

JMD SA discount stores pressurise union members: Workers have been pressured by managers at JMD SA discount stores in 22 different cities to leave their trade union or risk not having their contracts of employment prolonged. The NSZZ Solidarnosc union has also been hindered in its activities: The union has been prohibited from holding trade union elections and its members have not been allowed to perform their trade union functions.

GDF SUEZ Energia Polska excludes union from negotiations: The NSZZ Solidarnosc trade union has sought to negotiate with GDF SUEZ Energia Polska SA on work guarantees for company workers, but repeated requests to the company management over the past two years have been rejected.

Discrimination against union presidents: A case of discrimination against the Powiatowa Stacja Sanitarno-Epidemiologiczna in Ustrzyki Dolne has been reported by the NSZZ Solidarnosc. Since November 2010, the employer has been applying different rules on working matters to the president of the branch union, Magdalena Lochman, than have applied to other workers.

Discriminatory actions have also been taken against the branch president of the NSZZ Solidarnosc trade union by management at Walcownia Rur "Andrzej" Sp. z.o.o. in the town of Zawadzkie have hampered trade union activity at the company. The actions have included bullying, harassment, threats and ridicule.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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